When Porsche set out to win Le Mans for the new FIA rulebook on the cusp of the 1970s, they developed the dominant 917 to do it. It wasn’t always so successful though, and it had its share of growing pains in its first season of competition in 1969. What followed was a figurative growth spurt that saw short tails, long tails, pink pigs, hippie cars, and an offshoot of wildly powerful open-cockpit turbocharged variants like the 917/10 and 917/30 that all managed to trump their respective peers on the race tracks of the world. Of all the famed circuits graced by various 917s though, none have as much meaning in Porsche history as La Circuit de la Sarthe. This article isn’t going to attempt a retelling of the 917 story, but rather provide a little image-driven slice of it: the 917 in its Le Mans heyday, but not on the track itself.
Though it’s difficult to find things with a deeper Le Mans history than Porsche’s, the Hotel de France in a town called La Chartre sur le Loir is a rare example. Located just south of the town that gave the endurance race its namesake, it’s a place where racing teams used to stay and work on their cars before driving them to the race, a tradition of sorts dating back to the 1950s. Pictured below are a pair of Gulf 917LHs parked in front of the hotel in 1971, as well as the previous year’s “K” short tails in 1970.